10:33am PT by Graeme McMillan
How 'Green Lantern: Earth One' Is Remaking DC's Sci-Fi Leading Man
Next month sees the release of Green Lantern: Earth One, a contemporary re-imagining of the classic DC Entertainment concept by the creative team of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman.
The two have worked together on multiple projects and properties in the past, from Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes; Star Wars: Legacy; and their own creator-owned series from Image Comics, Invisible Republic. The duo brings a new feel to Hal Jordan and the intergalactic police force that is the Green Lantern Corps — a vibe that’s arguably more in-tune with modern science-fiction storytelling than the superheroics of the Justice League and its kin.
In doing so, they're following through on the promise behind DC's Earth One graphic-novel line, which was created in 2010 with the intent of creating standalone versions of DC's biggest series to act as an introduction for readers unfamiliar with the characters and comics themselves. (To date, the company has released volumes for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Teen Titans; an Aquaman volume is also in the works.)
Heat Vision talked to Bechko and Hardman about the upcoming graphic novel, its origins and why some parts of the larger Green Lantern mythology might be best left on the cutting-room floor for now.
One of the most surprising things about the book for me was the number of ways in which it changes from the established Green Lantern comic book canon. It’s faithful to the spirit, but certain elements that fans might consider core to the mythology are absent. How did you go about choosing what stayed and what didn’t?
Bechko: Often when we write characters who are not of our own creation, that spring from someone else’s universe, we try to sort through everything that’s available to us. Before we even started writing, a lot of what we talked about were which parts feel true to Green Lantern? Which parts can we do without?
Hardman: We also had a, kind of, ideological motive here. We wanted to eliminate the idea that the Green Lanterns were chosen and that they were special. We wanted to tell a story about an Everyman who was heroic because of the choices that he makes, rather than him being chosen to be special.
Bechko: That seemed like the most valuable update to us.
Hardman: That underlying shift is the biggest change, and that gives us the compass for moving through that universe in the way that we want to, and seeing the established characters that we [think] are important to tell the kinds of stories we wanted to tell. That’s what drove making those decisions.
It also has an interesting side effect of creating the central narrative for the book, in that the reader gets to follow Hal as he demonstrates whether or not he’s, for want of a better way to put it, worthy of the power ring he’s wearing.
Hardman: I think that idea came up early on. If you go into something like this Earth One angle, the whole context is to tell the story from an accessible point of view, but also, you have the opportunity to strip away things that — maybe there are things that make the character cool over a long period of time, and are essential to telling the story in a long, serialized way. In telling one essential story, one where this could be the only chapter, it didn’t seem effective to us to have all the trappings that went along with the character before. I mean, having to spew out an oath to a piece of machinery is a bizarre concept. [Laughs.]
Everybody who grew up reading comics, you become very used to a bunch of ideas that are odd, or wouldn’t necessarily hold up on their own if you didn’t already know about them. Some of that stuff we don’t need. We don’t need the oath. We don’t need some of those trappings. But we also felt that it’s important to tell a story that’s about the Green Lantern Corps, and about the central ideas and values of the book.
Bechko: I think the corollary to that is, in fiction, in sci-fi, someone will be special by birth. There are a lot of people I know in real life who chose the path — they’re not special for any other reason than they chose a path. They made a choice.
Hardman: They made sacrifices. Heroes make sacrifices, and that’s something that gets lost in longform superhero stories. We’re not known for doing superheroes, we’re not necessarily known for doing heroic characters — our book Invisible Republic, at Image Comics, is a somewhat bleak, but humanist, sci-fi book that’s not about special people at all, but about characters that are very gray. If we’re approaching a superhero book, we have to approach it in a way that makes sense for us, and also gets to the core about what being heroic is. Being heroic is making choices; it’s making sacrifices.
You touch on something I wanted to bring up. Green Lantern: Earth One feels very much like a contemporary sci-fi story, rather than a superhero story, per se.
Bechko: Part of that is, honestly, we enjoy writing science fiction. I mean, I personally very much enjoy writing science fiction.
Hardman: There’s a more prosaic version of this, which is — before the idea of the idea of doing this came up, I’d been reading some old Gil Kane Green Lantern issues that I’d gotten on sale, just randomly. And what came out of that is it’s a science fiction book, wholeheartedly! That whole Silver Age approach for adapting those characters for the then-current 1950s and 1960s was to place them into a science fiction story. So when the idea of doing this book came up, it just seemed natural doing a science fiction book!
How did the idea come up? Did DC come to you and say, “Here’s Green Lantern, do what you want with him”?
Hardman: We had been pitching a different book, and that didn’t happen for various complicated reasons. We were on a phone call with [DC publisher] Dan Didio, and he invited us to pitch for other projects. I just kind of blurted out Green Lantern, because I’d just been reading those Silver Age books recently and thought, “Well, there are aliens in that. We can do aliens.” I’d never talked to Corinna about it, I think she had no idea why I was saying it, but Dan said, “Maybe you can do an Earth One book for us.” It all worked out.
The format feels like a particularly good fit for you both. Looking at your work together to this point, I don’t necessarily think of you both as shortform storytellers, but you create stories that have endings. You’re not creators I think about as writing series that are created to necessarily go on forever. The graphic-novel format of the Earth One line feels in tune with what you traditionally do.
Bechko: Yes! We always prefer to have an ending. We want to tell a complete story, that is an important thing that happened to this character, whichever character we’re working on.
Hardman: I want to tell a story about the most important thing that happened to that character —
Bechko: — Or it should feel that way to them at that moment, at least.
Hardman: Yeah! I mean, taking over an in-continuity book that’s been around for 80 years, a lot of things have happened to that character during all that time. This format fits the kind of storytelling that we’re interested in, to tell something a little more self-contained.
And yet, despite that, Green Lantern: Earth One has a somewhat open ending. There are certainly seeds planted for future volumes in the series. Was that something that you were aware of, that you should lay the groundwork for book two, three or whatever, if this was a hit?
Hardman: While there are elements that seem open-ended, the ending of the book is the thematic payoff to the beginning of the book. If there’s more of them, we definitely have a plan about how we could do more volumes of this, but it was important for us that the character had an arc and reached the end of an arc that paid off the beginning of the book.
Bechko: A complementary idea to that, too, is that doing a hopeful ending — as opposed to a tragedy, a horror story or whatever — often does feel open-ended, because being hopeful is all about having a future.
Hardman: Trust me, we could do miserable endings! [Laughs]
The hardcover Green Lantern: Earth One will be released March 14.